Nouba, a modern Tunisian trend or a cultural movement?

Unlike the rest of us, News, Trends and movements never take a vacation. Instead, they take the expressway and head towards Social media.

So unless you have been living under a rock you must have heard about the outburst behind Nouba’s Show at the Festival of Carthage.

Transforming a series into a nationally renowned musical show is no small feat, but Abdlahmid Bouchnek is preparing to do it with finesse.

He actually broke the mold of the sacred mainstream with Nouba as a series, but will it radiate the same amazement as a musical show?

Sold out, full and packed, those were the headlines describing the intense pull coming through on the tickets.

In fact, the first performance was rapidly sold out, which immediately sparked hysteria among the waiting audience.

They even took it to the virtual world by starting a social media campaign demanding a second performance!

Nouba's Team quickly responded by setting up a second event for the following day, but even that completely sold out in a matter of hours!

Speaking of hours, they were long ones endured in the waiting line (and I thought I was being clever by going very early but turns out I had no idea what I was in for.)

Nonetheless, the excitement and the thrill created a whole Tunisian vibe that strikingly resembles the local carnival assembling a bride to the Hamam’s ornate doors (singing and dancing and most importantly enjoying some ringing Zaghareet from the inside core of Tunisian women)

The joyous tone and the festive mood were set way before the gilded gates opened which can promptly let you only imagine the lively atmosphere you’ll encounter inside.

And indeed, it was as if magic was real and the whole crowd was bewitched with the atmosphere, and what initiated that, was none other than the famous 3ache9 of the series Wajdi ; calling out on our prophet, beholding us with the exquisite scent of the Tunisian Bkhour that collides flawlessly with the machmoum scent being sold along the rows.

It was the ultimate opening, it got the crowds set and ready, the aura real steady and the actors are starting to show up on the scene already!

4,3,2,1.. It’s showtime!

The moment you hear the music, you enter the trance of expanse; a heart-pounding thrill of hearing several voices shout in unison, goosebumps all over your body, Tunisian pure happiness unleashed from the Mezwed melodies (that comes from hitting the taut skin of the vernacular instrument) and finally the undeniable and savory smell of Bkhour preceded to hypnotize the entire crowd to enter the Nouba Cloud.

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Photo credits: Karim Ferjani

The show had its own mood emerging solemnly from the authenticity of each performance, the clothes’ accordance, and the 90s’ importance.

All to create one sacred feeling, one that holds a bigger meaning, one that can only live at the core of our being and that is

“the Love of life - Ocheg Denya feeling”

It was also reflecting an enhanced image of the past and future; an image that sets bound to a new story and begs to an ancient one. It was offering a valuable glimpse of the past but inspiring towards the big screens of the glorious future, it was talking about a passionate love story but it was also reflecting a patrionship one, it was touching on rape, violence and gangs but it also highlighted innocence, humour and friendship...

So often during it , between an impure "dyschromia" volunteer saturated with red, incense vapor and thick tears, I would find myself getting lost in the details, details that were very well orchestrated and well put, details like dance moves resurfacing from 90s video clips, details like the color of each actor's clothes with each take from happy to blake, the outfit always changed and even the audience’s outfits were very engaged from literal 90s clothes to pop colors and hair accessories that were very much on theme ! 

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Photo credits: Karim Ferjani

So what’s the story there, was it arranged on emotions or staged to highlight some big notions?

Turns out, it was about reading between the lines and reflecting on bigger meanings that can never be refined! It was about the embodiment of certain perceptions set by our societies and the process of breaking free of them, for ex; we find Hbiba at her first entrance stunning in a red dress, like a flower blooming in the early season yet the transition she went through and the arrival point to the aftermath of her rape scene with her in a white dress that doesn’t reflect only her loss of virginity, pride and intimacy it actually also reflects a rebirth and a strong one indeed, it reflects the defiance of the society’s lengths against her, it reflects her astonishing power of holding on to life as if she was baptized with “the feeling of Ocheg Denya” for the very first time. 

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Photo credits: Karim Ferjani

All of this is quite a fashion strategy for a musical show but after all, this isn’t any musical show, this is Nouba!

This is the history and the Mezwed, this is the familiarity of then and now, this is the relatable and the close to home, this is the definition of being a Tunisian in every aspect!

I was also impressed by the music process that rallied between actors singing and real performers shining through the glass ceiling of defying the norms and making it all the way up to Carthage and radiating a mysterious state of indescribable ecstasy through Mezoued.

The entire performance was a touching gospel ode to our history and the stories behind it.

Which sets the bar high and begs the question: Is Nouba a Tunisian lover that we reminisce with to every bit of traditional bliss or is it just childhood  memories  we often miss? Is it a trend or a whole cultural movement?

 That remains to be answered by you Mafters !

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Photo credits: Karim Ferjani

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